Itís odd that while parents, educators and even a majority of legislators have spoken out against the overemphasis on standardized testing, that the Senate nevertheless has chosen to reinforce the misuse of testing with passage of SB 893.

This bill would grant the commissioner of education a blank check to mandate that school districts use standardized tests scores as a significant component of teacher evaluations, while also killing the longstanding state salary step schedule for teachers. Itís hard to imagine a better way to drive off high quality, veteran teachers than to tell them their minimum pay under state law is now reduced to $27,540 a year. Itís insulting, and it devalues a profession that already is suffering from lackluster pay, crushing health-care costs and an environment that continues to promote teaching to the test.

The great weight of scholarly opinion comes down against the misuse of studentsí scores on standardized state tests in teacher evaluation, like the value-added methodology (VAM) we have seen in Houston ISD and elsewhere. Promoting the use of evaluations based on VAM is a surefire way to bolster the excessive emphasis on standardized testing in our schools at a time when parents and teachers alike increasingly see the testing obsession as truly destructive of teaching and learning.

Weíve heard the reaction of teachers to this bill: one of disbelief, followed naturally by anger. Marrying test-driven evaluations to a pathetic state minimum salary is yet another kick that will drive away many highly qualified educators. As part of a comprehensive teacher-quality policy, the state instead should increase minimum pay for teachers at all levels of experience, not reduce it to $27,540 a year.

Texas AFT represents more than 65,000 teachers, paraprofessionals, support personnel, and higher-education employees across the state. Texas AFT is affiliated with the 1.6-million-member American Federation of Teachers.